The man responsible for embezzling US$485 million from his employer and perpetuating the biggest bank corruption scandal in China’s history was repatriated from the United States on Wednesday, according to a statement by the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection (CCDI) of the Communist Party of China.
Xu Chaofan, the perpetrator of the case, is the former president of the Kaiping branch of the Bank of China. He fled to the US in 2001, where he became a wanted person by Interpol.
According to the US Department of Justice, Chaofan was arrested in 2003. He was found guilty of racketeering, money laundering, international transportation of stolen property as well as passport and visa fraud.
The court found that with help from another former bank manager, Xu Guojun, and their two wives, Yu Ying Yi and Kuang Wan Fang, Chaofan funnelled money he had stolen from the bank into shell corporations in Hong Kong as well as multiple personal bank and investment accounts before it was laundered through Canada and the United States. The DOJ says that evidence at the trial showed that a significant amount of the money was used at Casinos in Las Vegas, where $20,000 to $80,000 bets were made.
The four then immigrated to the United States from China by creating fake marriage certificates with individuals who had valid US immigration status, allowing them to get residency in the US while avoiding Chinese law enforcement, according to US Court of Appeals.
All four were sentenced in 2009. Chaofan was sent behind bars for 25 years and has been serving his time in the US since.
It took 10 years for the criminal activity to be detected because Bank of China branch managers had the authority to single handedly approve loans and asset transfers.
Due to a change in accounting procedures, Chaofan’s operation was discovered in 2001 when auditors noticed discrepancies in the bank’s books and traced it to the Kaiping branch.
China has since been working to bring Chaofan back to his home country and recover some of the fraudulently acquired money. This effort is part of China’s Sky Net operation, which seeks to bring fugitives suspected of economic crimes back to China.
Operation Sky Net is a key component of China President Xi Jingping’s anti-corruption platform, and it has had a significant impact in the last several years.
Since March 2015 more than 4,000 individuals, including 800 officials, suspected of economic crimes from more than 90 countries and regions have been brought back to China to face trial. In that time, Chinese police have also confiscated around 10 billion yuan ($1.6 billion) in assets, according to the State Council of the People’s Republic of China.
In Chaofan’s case, authorities have recovered more than two billion yuan ($300 million) of what he stole, the CCDI statement says.
However, China has had particular difficulty in securing cooperation from the United States, according to a Reuters exclusive.
Chaofan is the first official suspect to be repatriated from abroad since the establishment of the State Supervisory Committee, the CCDI statement says, insisting that international cooperation in anti-corruption law enforcement must continue to improve.
Author: Jesse Chase-Lubitz